Stage a Career Rebound Like Kathie Lee

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Same gabber, different couch.

Eight years ago Kathie Lee Gifford hung up her microphone and waved goodbye to a 15 year run hosting Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, (DIS) a gig that netted her 11 Emmy nominations (but zero wins).

Now Gifford is back on the morning talk show circuit, “eight years older, 10 pounds heavier, a half-inch shorter, and just in time for HD television,” she quipped to her new colleagues, Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira. As of April 7, the 56-year-old veteran returns to The Today Show (GE) to co-anchor the show’s 7-month-old fourth hour with Hoda Kotb, a time slot that is usually allotted for beauty advice, weight loss tips and ambush makeovers.

Gifford's transition back seems fairly smooth so far, but after an eight year hiatus just about any baby boomer's skill set could use some career expert makeover tips. Are you over 50 and returning to your old job after some time away? Don't prepare for your second act on your own, times have changed.

“We have to work with our members and individuals who are 50 and over to prepare them for a 21st century workplace,” says Deborah Russell, Director of workforce issues for AARP. It might be as simple as knowing how to do an attachment in Microsoft (MSFT) Word, or being able to track changes on a Word document without asking your teenager for help. But staying on top of developments in your field will preserve your value. You’re expected to be “ up to speed the moment you walk in the door, know the latest trends, laws and regulations,” says Mary Quigley, author of Going Back to Work: A Survival Guide for Comeback Moms. “If you were in finance or banking or even retail, you need to know how to work the computer, keep an inventory with a spreadsheet. It’s a big thing.”

Of course, before you can prove yourself on the job, you must have a solid resume. Because resumes are now primarily posted online, job seekers of all ages must be adept at getting their applications noticed. “A lot of time people are not familiar with how that works,” says Russell. “We talk about having key words because employers scan for those relevant pieces due to the sheer volume of applicants.” A local career counselor can help you to use the best search terms and phrases.

Also, job interviews no longer focus on your past, but want to explore what you’ll do going forward. “Employers are less concerned about where you’ve worked and more interested in how you’re going to be a fit in a company,” says Russell. If you’re over 50, there’s a good chance your boss will be under 50, and have a different management style than you’re used to. “Realize that bosses under 50 may have been at five companies in their work span and focus on a team approach,” says Quigley. “They’re task oriented and goal oriented, and those first six months are critical for you to prove yourself.”

The median retirement age is now between 65 and 70, according to a MetLife survey on American attitudes towards retirement. Returning to work in your 50’s can easily mean 10 to 15 more years in the field, and with college tuition looming near $50,000 a year and a slowing economy, the fact is you ought to think ahead. There’s no reason to wait until your children have left for college (like Kathie Lee’s son Cody) to start thinking about returning to the workforce. Sign up for continuing education courses to start beefing up your skill set, and choose a date when you’ll go back to work. “There’s a learning curve,” says Quigley, “so get out of your comfort zone. It’s fun to sit at the bake sale and chitchat, but set a goal and intellectually challenge yourself. It sets a good example for your kids too.”

 

 

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